RBNW....new and improved!
Jun 1, 2013 1:10pm
wanna come to a cookout this evening???
i'm having grilled penquin !!!!!http://espn.go.com/nhl/playoffs/2013/story/_/id/9321597/closer-look-bruins-vs-penguins
all great teams, all teams whose personnel find their names inscribed forever on the Stanley Cup, have a kaleidoscope of personalities. No team, least of all a championship team, is populated by automatons. Players are not robotic sentinels programmed to simply skate, shoot and check. Rather, they are flesh and blood, with personalities that help shape their individual games and the identities of their teams.
Here's a look at how these personalities may be brought to bear on the eagerly anticipated Eastern Conference finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins:
The Strong, Silent Type
Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara is a formidable force to be reckoned with at both ends of the ice.
And oh yeah, in the case of Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, tall. The 6-foot-9 Chara has been doing it all for years. He menaces opposing forwards, and when called on -- as was the case in Game 7 of the opening round against the Toronto Maple Leafs -- he positions his giant frame in front of opposing netminders. That's where he was when Patrice Bergeron's last-minute shot from the point sailed past an unknowing James Reimer, sending the game to overtime after the Leafs had led 4-1 midway through the third period. Sometimes you can see Chara riding his bike to and from TD Garden, a kind of bohemian behemoth. Or something like that. As one scout told us, Chara can play against anyone. And since he's averaging 29:13 per game in ice time -- the most of any player still hanging around the playoffs -- he likely will.
Defenseman Brooks Orpik skates softly at times but packs a wallop and is key to the Pens' success.
The Penguins have their own version, although Brooks Orpik isn't nearly as tall as Chara. But in terms of menace and in terms of importance to their teams, Orpik and Chara are similarly matched. Orpik won't provide the offense that Chara does, although Orpik did score in overtime in Game 6 of the opening round against the New York Islanders. Ask his teammates and one thing they will all say about Orpik is that he rarely leaves his emotional center -- something that is crucial as the stakes grow higher and higher this time of the year. Named after legendary coach Herb Brooks, Orpik is thoughtful off the ice while almost solemnly punishing on it, rarely jawing at other players, almost never fighting. If the Penguins need to protect a lead or shut down an opposing team's top line, Orpik will be on the ice.
Patrice Bergeron has overcome problems with concussions and is one of the B's central figures.
Both teams are knee-deep in solid, veteran leaders. It is the way of champions. But each has a defined central figure, a player upon whose shoulders the decisive moments rest, a guy to whom all eyes turn at that central moment.
We've known the Bruins' Bergeron a long time, having followed him through concussion woes that at one point threatened to derail his career. He persevered and won an Olympic gold medal as a surprise addition to the 2010 Canadian team, a Selke Trophy as the game's best two-way forward and, of course, the Stanley Cup in 2011. Bergeron scored the Game 7 winner in '11 against the Vancouver Canucks, after it had seemed the Canucks would run away with the series in the early going. He has already increased his legend by tying Game 7 against the Leafs against long odds and then scoring in overtime to send the Bruins to the second round. Teammates talk about how Bergeron is the guy who sets the tone in the dressing room and away from the rink. He steps in if in-room ribbing gets out of hand, and he adheres to a strict fitness and diet regimen. In short, he is the ultimate lead-by-example kind of guy.
Just when it seems Sidney Crosby can surprise us no more, The Kid keeps getting better and better.
Interesting that there are more than a few ties between Bergeron and his counterpart in the Pittsburgh locker room, the guy who wears No. 87. It was Bergeron who was tasked with taking a young Sidney Crosby under his wing at the 2005 World Junior Championships, where a stacked Canadian team beat Alexander Ovechkin and a star-studded Russian outfit in the gold-medal game. Bergeron and Crosby have battled serious concussion issues. And, like Bergeron, Crosby is the guy around whom the team orbits. He has developed an uncanny ability to return from injury and pick up his play at an elite level. Crosby missed the last month of the regular season and the first game of the playoffs with a broken jaw, yet he leads all playoff performers with seven goals and is fourth with 15 points in 10 games. In the room, Crosby is as relaxed as we've ever seen him. Oh, the media scrums await him every day in two waves, one for television and the other for print and radio, but he lingers, chatting about other playoff series and elements of the game.
The interesting part of this series is that it's entirely likely that Bergeron and Crosby, two old friends, will face off against each other much of the time.
If You Don't Have Anything Nice To Say
Brad Marchand knows how to get under foes' skin, and Boston needs him at his feistiest in this series.
Isn't there always someone on each team whom opposing fans and players already detest, or will learn to detest about two minutes after the puck drops? For these teams, the interesting part is that both "villains" have found ways to turn down the volume on the histrionics while remaining agitating, effective forces. Brad Marchand, who has developed a well-earned reputation as a kind of fierce, burrowing animal, has matured in the past couple of seasons, although we still recall him in the '11 Cup finals speed-bagging Daniel Sedin while the rest of the Canucks looked on in disbelief and inaction. Marchand will have to continue to toe the line, digging at Tomas Vokoun and aggravating the Penguins' defense while not getting into penalty trouble. The speedy and skilled Marchand exhibits the kind of abandon that always plays well with knowledgeable fans, like those in Boston.
Shawn Thornton and Matt Cooke
Matt Cooke will need no introduction to the Bruins, who always seem eager to get their hands on him.
It's an interesting juxtaposition on the Penguins' side, as Matt Cooke is well-known in Boston as the player who delivered a cataclysmic blow to Boston center Marc Savard in March 2010. Recently, Bruins play-by-play man Jack Edwards compared Cooke to Bobby Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan. Even though it was an unfortunate and wholly inappropriate comparison, it gives some measure of the feelings in some Boston circles for the checking forward. Cooke, who speaks eloquently to his journey from a man on the brink, has been terrific this postseason, particularly in the first round against the Ottawa Senators, killing penalties and chipping in on offense. He also helps keep things light in the room, at one point holding a television reporter's microphone during an interview with stall mate Jussi Jokinen in Ottawa.
Boston's defense, stretched thin by injury, would receive a jolt from the return of Andrew Ference.
One of the most interesting guys in this series is Boston defenseman Andrew Ference. We caught up with Ference periodically as he played in the Czech Republic during the lockout. He is into environmental causes and supports a host of local charities and organizations. He and his family are downtown Boston residents, as he has chosen to embrace living in the city since his arrival from the Calgary Flames via trade in February 2007. He also talks the game as well as anyone in the Bruins' room. He was wearing a walking boot as the last round ended, and injury and suspension have kept Ference out of the lineup for all but four games this playoff season. If he's able to return in the coming days, his presence would be a boon to Boston's depth along the blue line.
With each series win by the Pens, the steady Paul Martin is a step closer to leaving 2011-12 behind.
There's not necessarily a complimentary person to Ference in the Pens' room (not that the Penguins don't care about the environment; we're sure they do), but for us Paul Martin is an interesting character because he has traveled a difficult road the past year. Always a little understated at the best of times, Martin never fails to answer for what could have been a career-altering season a year ago. Martin's 2011-12 was so awful, GM Ray Shero asked him if he wanted a trade after the Pens were knocked out of the postseason in the first round. Martin insisted he wanted to stay, that he'd come to Pittsburgh to win a Cup, and that he would reward Shero for his faith. He has made good on such promises. Playing mostly with Orpik, Martin has been solid in his zone, playing almost exclusively against opposing teams' top lines. He's also chipped in significant offense. As of Tuesday, Martin was tied for third among all defensemen with nine points in the playoffs.
Claude Julien brought Boston its first Cup since 1972, but life as a coach is a tenuous existence.
There is much that aligns Claude Julien and Dan Bylsma, but they have distinctly different backgrounds. Julien, essentially a career coach with just 14 NHL games to his credit as a player, worked his way from major junior to the American Hockey League to the NHL. He served in Montreal before a brief tenure with New Jersey, followed by his posting in Boston, where he won the Cup in 2011. Bylsma turned in a solid NHL career (he played in 429 regular-season games) before moving into a second career as a coach. Compared to Julien, Bylsma's career rise was meteoric; he had been coach of the Pens' AHL affiliate for only a few months before being asked to replace Michel Therrien in February 2009. The Pens won the Cup a few months later.
Both men are unfailingly polite and thoughtful, even though both work in markets where there is significant media attention. Both are former Jack Adams Award winners as coach of the year, and both are self-aware enough to realize that those accolades and the fact that both have won Cups in the past four years have little bearing on job security. Indeed, both teams struggled at times in the first round, and it's not beyond the pale to suggest both would have been looking for work had they not advanced.
Dan Bylsma of the Pittsburgh Penguins
Dan Bylsma rocked the boat by benching Marc-Andre Fleury, but the Pens haven't looked back.
Each has shown an ability to keep his team focused in difficult times, a reflection of their low-key personalities. Neither is afraid to make difficult calls, however, as Julien at one point benched popular winger Shawn Thornton during the '11 playoffs and then returned him to the lineup at a critical juncture, helping the Bruins overcome an early-series deficit. At times this season, Julien has played three rookie defensemen and the team hasn't missed a beat.
Bylsma, meanwhile, has yanked the only starting goaltender the Penguins have known in the playoffs since the last lockout, Marc-Andre Fleury, in favor of journeyman Vokoun, who has gone 6-1 with a .941 save percentage. Bylsma has also deftly manipulated a deep lineup in guiding the Pens to their first conference finals since 2009.
This post was modified by RBNW....new and improved! on 2013-06-01 20:10:55